Amsterdam: cycling city

The narrow, winding streets of Amsterdam's historic 17th century city centre aren't ideally suited to travelling by car. Pedestrians and cyclists definitely have the upper hand in Amsterdam and most locals swear by their bikes as the best - and often their only - means of transport.

Nearly every resident of Amsterdam owns a bicycle. With an estimated 800,000 bicycles in a city of 811,000 residents (January 2014 figures from the Amsterdam Department for Research and Statistics), it is estimated that there are almost as many bikes in the city as there are permanent residents. From couriers to police officers, everyone's on two wheels - and many visitors marvel at the multistorey bike racks.

Biking in Amsterdam: fast & flexible

Bikes are still seen as the poor man's means of transport in many countries. However, this is certainly not the case in the Netherlands and in particular, in Amsterdam. The bicycle is simply the fastest, most flexible and fun way to get around. Bikes are embedded in the culture of the city and a key political consideration for the Amsterdam authorities, with cycling being positioned as a worthy alternative to cars and public transport.

Benefits of cycling in Amsterdam:

  • City accessibility: One car parking space can hold 15 bikes. Amsterdam cyclists travel 2.3 million kilometres a day collectively - just imagine the additional environmental impact if these extra kilometres had been travelled by cars!
  • Financial consequences: cycling infrastructure costs a fraction of what it costs to construct infrastructure for cars and public transport.
  • The health of our city: every four km travelled by bike instead of by car results in one kilogram less of CO2 being released into the environment.

Cycling policy in Amsterdam

In brief, the cycling policy in Amsterdam is centred around the following considerations:

  • More bicycle racks/storage.
  • Continued measures to actively prevent bike theft.
  • Complete (and improve) the Amsterdam Bicycle Network (Hoofdnet Fiets).
  • Improve traffic safety for cyclists.
  • Encourage more people to travel by bike.

More Amsterdammers on bikes

Using a bike isn’t a matter of course for all Amsterdammers. Young people in the city are less enthusiastic about cycling and immigrant Amsterdammers are also less inclined to travel by bike. But this perhaps isn’t surprising considering they didn’t grow up in the Dutch bike culture. And due to the fact that it is often parents who teach their children how to ride a bike, second generation immigrant Amsterdammers are also less likely to frequently use a bike.

The City of Amsterdam is behind various initiatives to encourage people to start cycling. School children are taught about safe cycling in the city and have the opportunity to achieve a cycling proficiency diploma. A school route planner is also being developed that suggests a safe cycle route between the pupil’s house and school. The City of Amsterdam also supports various social organisations that provide cycling lessons to adults that didn’t learn to cycle earlier in life.

Watch the following video for an impression of cycling in Amsterdam: